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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Indonesian Air

Another airplane crashed in Indonesia. This, of course, brings back fond memories of our honeymoon.

In May of 2007, Mrs. Apron and I celebrated our marriage in Bali, Indonesia.

We called it our "Balimoon."

It's hard for me now to even believe it happened, but there is plenty of photographic evidence to prove that it did.

Like all poor twentysomethings, (at the time, I was making $11.00-an-hour as an EMT, and my cute new wife was a graduate student), who want to do something extraordinary, we took incredible advantage of the kindness and comparative wealth of our parents. Specifically in this instance, her parents. More specifically, their frequent flyer miles. If we hadn't, the trip would have cost us approximately $9,000 in airfare, and, instead of having a Balimoon, we would have ended up having a Trentonmoon.

Mrs. Apron desperately wanted to go to Bali, almost exclusively because of her deep love of Balinese gamelan music, a percussive, rhythmic, beautiful music that Mrs. Apron played in ensembles in Pittsburgh and in Rochester, New York. Ever flexible in the heady days of our courtship and engagement, I agreed to go to Bali.

Before I ever looked at a map.

Bali is very far away from Pennsylvania, for those of you who are geographical nitwits like me. It's fucking very far, people. The first time I actually realized where it was, I distinctly felt a slight lump in my throat, and other one near my testicles. It wasn't cancer, though. I had it checked.

I can remember sitting in the back of ambulance #402, my partner doing his architecture homework in the driver's seat, the radio sitting on the stretcher and being on the phone with our travel agent trying to schedule the trip to and from Bali.

"Well, we can get you from Philadelphia to Bangkok, or JFK to Vietnam, but that flight would have to leave a day earlier, and you would miss your connecting flight to Jakarta. There's another option, of course, but you don't want to go through Russia..."

My head was spinning. What the fuck was this guy talking about? I didn't want to go to any of these places, let alone Bali. I mean, I was sure it was going to be beautiful and worth it and there would be sex when we got there and everything but, wasn't there a direct flight from here to there and an injection I could receive so I could sleep through the whole thing?

Alas, there was not.

We flew out from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. We had less than forty minutes to board a plane to Japan. Then one to Jakarta. Then one to Bali. On the way back, it was Bali to Singapore, then Amsterdam, then Philadelphia. This, friends, is what happens when you use frequent flyer miles in an effort to circumnavitage the globe.

There was a big clusterfuck in the airport at Jakarta. I don't remember exactly what the problem was, my wife probably will-- I have little head for details, but they weren't crazy about letting us on the plane from Jakarta to Bali. So they didn't. We missed our flight, diminishing our chances at experiencing Bali and cross-time-zone nookie.

"Next one. Very sorry."

Well, "next one" came in and went-- we could watch the planes coming and wenting from the open-air gate. People got on, people got off. Bye-bye, plane! Every twenty minutes or so, an Indonesian person in a uniform jacket would walk in and stare at us. Clusters of Indonesians in uniform shirts would cluster around a single phone, talking, staring at us, even pointing at us.

"Yes, they're the ones with SARS," I'm sure they were saying. "The short one with big boobies and the tall Woody Allen. Take them as prisoners."

Now, I don't like flying. And I like it even less when there are complications. My wife was flipping out, but eventually she resigned herself to the probable conclusion that we were not going to Bali, and that we were going to have to live in Jakarta for the rest of our lives because, apparently, we were un-planeworthy. She laid down on a bench in the airport and put my hat over her face, wanting to shut out the world. I stood up and walked over to the edge of the gate so I could watch the action on the tarmac.

You're not going to believe what I saw.

Around five police officers or army officers, I really couldn't tell you which, were standing on the tarmac of this pinkydinky airport. There was a huge plane, sitting at the gate. The police officers were systematically searching, and I mean patting down, like on COPS, the flight crew and the flight attendants before permitting them to enter the plane. The captain and co-captain of the plane were standing there, on the tarmac, with their arms fully extended outward and their legs shoulder-width apart as they were being felt up by big, scary guys with guns.

And I thought, hmpf. Why do they feel the need to do that to the flight crew? And, if there really is a need to do that to the flight crew, then I'm very scared. And, if there is a need to do that to the flight crew, then surely there's a need to do that to all the passengers. And, if there is a need to do that to the flight crew and all the passengers, then I am very, very scared.

I've always been very, very.... very scared of plane crashes and air disasters. In an effort to master my childhood fear of airplane accidents, I obsessed over news coverage of the PAN-AM Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. I gathered my mother, father, my two sisters, and my sister's friend who had the misfortune to be spending some time at our house on that particuar day, into the living room for a funeral service for the Lockerbie victims. I had a CASIO keyboard set to pipe organ mode on which I played a slow dirge. I had ten "victims" of the disaster (Playmobil action figures wrapped individually in a tissue) all lined up, as the real victims were on the news footage my parents *ahem* allowed me to watch continuously. The living room victims were carefully loaded into a 1/24 scale model hearse (that I had spraypainted gold, for some reason-- Saturday Night Fever hearse?) and that concluded the service for the Playmobil figurines. Therapy sessions should have began the very next morning, but I just went to school.

So, my fear of perishing in an airline disaster/terror attack/explosion has deep roots, and the sight of airline crews being methodically searched on the tarmac of a country that has 18 different Wikipedia pages devoted to air disasters was somewhat disconcerting to me. But I didn't have much time to think about it, as a mustachioed, swarthy man in a Garuda Airlines short-sleeve uniform shirt came sauntering up to me.

"Sir, you flight is ready. Come please. Quickly please."

I pointed to the plane just outside.

"It's not that one, is it?"

I grabbed my wife's hand and held it tightly as we followed this man down two flights of stairs until, oh my fucking God, we were actually on the tarmac. A silly little jitney truck came barreling up to us at a high rate of speed.

"In please," said the small mustache man.

We got in and the fucking thing went racing across the tarmac, headed towards a Garuda Indonesia plane off in the distance.

"We will make it," the lunatic driving assured us, grinning. I wondered if he had been searched yet today.

We did make it, both on the plane and to Bali, though this flight from Jakarta to Bali encountered heavy turbulence that even had normal people freaked out and letting out gasps and even a shriek or two. For my part, I wanted to die with dignity. I just held onto my beloved's hand with a force that probably turned most of its bones to a cocaine-like consistency.

"Okay, you're actually hurting me now."

I wanted to say, "What's the difference? When this thing explodes, the sudden change in air pressure is going to make the gasses inside our bodies expand to four times their normal volume, causing our lungs to swell and then collapse."

But I didn't. I just loosened my grip. A little.


  1. We spent a week in Virgina. It was nice. There was little to no risk of death, and we went to Monticello on Jefferson's birthday.

  2. My flight to India (Gujurat) was similar to your experience in's a deep sickening feeling.
    I too have issues flying...I don't see that changing anytime soon, unfortunately, flying is something I used to do a lot of with work...I took to just tuning into my music.
    I figured...if I was going to die...I might as well be doing it while having positive audio stimulation. I always pictured myself plummeting down to Mozart...or something similar. ....sort of "Professional"-esque. (Gary Oldman...)

  3. So far (today is my 5th anniversary) I have not had a honeymoon. Instead I have 2 small children- further diminishing my chances of having a honeymoon in the next decade. My point is: don't buy a motorcycle.


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